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Local Officials Call on Assembly to Pass Chafee Municipal Relief Bills

East Providence City Councilor William Conley, who also serves as Johnston town solicitor, said the bills would "allow communities to take individual responsibility for solving their particular pension problems."

A group of officials from several communities gathered at the on Wednesday for a press conference hosted by Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, offering public appeals to the state General Assembly to pass Gov. Lincoln Chafee's package of municipal relief bills.

Flanked by officials, as well as visiting mayors, council members, and administrators representing towns across Rhode Island, Polisena explained that the enabling legislation is urgently needed.

"Please, let us, as leaders, have the tools to allow our communities to grow economically, and this will allow us to give our taxpayers much-needed relief," said Polisena.

The seven bills — which would allow cities and towns to waive state mandates; suspend Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases in pension payments; and keep past payments for school department deficits from becoming part of a town's bottom line in future budgets, among other authorities — are scheduled for a hearing by the House Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon at the State House.

[A copy of the agenda for the hearing is attached to this article.]

East Providence City Councilor William Conley, who also serves as Johnston town solicitor, said the bills would "allow communities to take individual responsibility for solving their particular pension problems."

Through the so-called "enabling legislation," which puts the decision-making on the local level, Conley explained, "essentially takes away the excuse from municipalities that 'Well, this is beyond our control [so] we can't fix it.'"

Coventry Town Manager Thomas Hoover said Chafee's legislation would provide the town a way to deal with its unfunded liabilities in its police and town employee pension funds — currently, the police retirement plan is 11 percent funded and the municipal plan is 25 percent funded.

"We know we have a big hole to dig out of," explained Hoover, who also noted that the Assembly "did a good thing" in voting for an overhaul of the state pension system.

"But we need help at the local level, those of us who have independent plans, and this package that the governor has put forward has a little bit for everyone," Hoover said. "We need that type of help out of the state house. It's very important — not only for the Town of Coventry, but for all of us — to get that help so that we can finally get these pension plans back on track and give the hard-working employees and pensioneers what they've worked so hard to enjoy."

Following the session, Polisena said he thinks the event was successful in getting legislators' attention.

"It just shows you the strong support that we have all across the state. This is supported by all 39 cities and towns, there's no doubt in my mind," the mayor explained. "I think people are going to be very hard-pressed to vote against this."

Polisena also said that legislators should worry about holding their seats after the November election if they refuse to bring the bill out of committee or defeat it.

"It's up to our delegation, and I'll be honest with you: People are going to be watching. I think you're going to be seeing a lot of people filing for office" to challenge legislators, Polisena stated. "If it doesn't come up for a vote, you're going to see a lot of new faces [filing to run]. If it comes up for a vote and people vote against it, those people will be replaced."

Rags 1 April 25, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Funny thing about collectively bargained contracts done with the authority of a constitutionally upheld state statute--they are meant to be enforced. Poor past political or fiscal decisons made by these same politicians are not legal reason to breach an existing contract. No you say-then try going to your bank and say that you have buyer's remorse and see what they say or what a court decides. Recent Florida Court decision that paralells a R.I. Ct decision says that a preceived fiscal crisis is not grounds because legal remedies exist. By the way--do we collect an Internet Sales Tax?
Rumford Resident April 26, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Funny thing about collective bargaining agreements in RI. As Arlene Violet has written in various columns, 'collective bargaining' negotiated by friends and relatives, with unsustainable COLA and hacks retiring in their 40s..... But the bankruptcy receiver is the way to fully level off these cases where the unions are breaking the backs of the taxpayer. The nice thing is, post Central Falls, you don't even after file for bankruptcy. Just threaten it. The taxpayer is protected and the unions have to figure it out. There will be riots. But between the union workers vs the ones that have already retired. The workers will be asking why they are working to fund pensions for the folks who retired with COLAs etc. It will be fun to watch..... Moura, Faria, Rossi, etc will have to defend to the worker why the fat cats can stay in Florida with a RI pension while they work hard and get less...
Rags 1 April 26, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Rumford Resident--name calling and leaving out other politicians that negoitiated contracts doesn't get it. Rossi, Faria etc. were not around when many of these contracts were legally signed--sorry but your self-serving statements miss the issue of shared responsibility and contract law. Case of misplaced attention. If you don't like the law you ignore it, if you don't like the facts you change them, and if you have a contrary opinion, you make up some new facts. Contracts are meant to be enforced. It is the whole basis of business and commerce in this country.
Just the Facts April 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Funny how the fact that when a union worker is employed and they are no longer able to collect Social Security is always left out of the discussion. If that worker has put into the SS system before becoming a Union employee, whatever they have earned will be reduced due to the fact they will receive a pension of some kind. As far as contract obligations go, call your bank and tell them you've fallen on tough times and can no longer afford or are not willing to keep up your end of your contract/mortgage. You know, the contract you and the other party agreed to. Let us know how that works out for you.
Govstench April 27, 2012 at 10:04 AM
There is one distinction that needs to be stated, " Collective bargaining" takes place in the private sector between employees and shareholders of companies. In government, this process is called coercive bargaining as the process involves the public union representatives and their bought and paid for agents sitting across from them. The taxpayers have no representation in this process. Let's remember that.
Jack April 27, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Other than closing two libraries, what exactly has O'Keefe and the budget commision accomplished in East Providence???
Rags 1 April 27, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Right on "Just the Facts" If the weather isn't right, lets blame the union.
Rumford Resident April 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM
Sorry, I will try to name Vinhateiro Ramos and the other friends and relatives who were the beneficiaries of years of Kanelos and Snow and the rest of the nepotisim crowd that ruled the city for 50 years. Rossi, Faria, Moura are the union stooge leaders in present day. The ones that are going to have to try to explain to the union worker why they get less while the union retiree in Florida cashes the check from good ole EP. What a system..... Certainly sustainable? As the EP tax base shrinks, the union hack leaders think they can shake down the taxpayers But again, a receiver or just the threat of one will do the job nicely.....
Rumford Resident April 28, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Funny how even the threat of eliminating a COLA gets a union retiree to scream. Even social security doesn't have an automatic 3-5 % raise a year. But public service union contracts sure do... So then you have the example of the retired fire and police collecting close to $200 large on the taxpayers dime. Oh, and you left off the example of the union hack retiring in their early 40s and skipping town to MA to start the same scam and double dip..... But again, the well has run dry. The party is over....... Greece, EP, Central Falls, Chicago, Newark. There is no difference. They are all bankrupt or ready to file..... The union leadership will be fine. They are the true fat cat slob. They are part of the 1% that the liberals scream about. And the teacher, firefighter, and police officer will be the true victim. Hoffa, Moura, Rossi, Faria. They wil be imune......
Rumford Resident April 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM
ITS ALL OKEEFES FAULT That will be the bumper sticker by the 10-0 democrats who ran the city for a year DONT BLAME US BLAME OKEEFE Jack, dont blame the surgeon for the illness OKeefe is doing what no one has had the stones to do for years Lets see, do I want OKeefe making a decision or Rogers, Rose, Kleyla, Furtado, Rossi, Tsonos? Who do I trust? I think that is a no brainer. Oh, and Jack, WHAT HAS TSONOS DONE? In February, he publicly stated he had a plan to save school sports? It is now May. Talk is cheap. Let us all in on your plan Charlie! Your city waits for your big ideas to 'cut admin' and 'consolidate' Almost 2 years and no ideas or leadership. While we wait, we can let Mr OKeefe baby sit Rogers and Tsonos and Conley and Kleyla and Rossi and Furtado and Rose and Digoia All Dems who were elected and did nothing...... I am fine with OKeefe!
Rags 1 April 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
There are legions of "private sector" receipents taking in millions on their contracts and getting social security. One guy named Gallo got 90 million when Wall St. failed. A lot of that money was taxpayer funded hedge funds and pension funds--of course he wasn't a "union" member. If you don't like the union contracts then re-negotiate in the future. At least the money is not going to China like many "private" companies have done. It's just greed over need not politics.
Spo April 29, 2012 at 01:35 AM
"There will be riots." Really, riots? Want to put money on that brilliant prediction?

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